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Romans 12:3-21

Overcome Evil with Good

  • Jean Marais
  • Sunday Night Messages
  • March 10, 2024

Paul started Romans 12 in verses 1-2 which we studied last week, urging us to surrender our bodies as holy living sacrifices which is our spiritual worship. We do not conform to this world but are transformed by our minds being renewed by the Spirit of God and the word of God. This flows into practical application and to practically serve and make a difference in other people’s lives. What should our attitude be? What is the foundation from which we serve? Paul gives very definite, practical direction and principles. He once again starts with our identity and tells us to be of sober mind concerning how we think about ourselves.

He speaks about the gifts that we received from God and how they should be applied, and then lastly, bringing us back to the purpose of it all: reflecting and living out the love of God.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Overcome Evil with Good
Romans 12:3-21
March 10, 2024

Paul started Romans 12 in verses 1-2 which we studied last week, urging us to surrender our bodies as holy living sacrifices which is our spiritual worship. In other words, what we do with our bodies as we surrender to God becomes worship unto him.

We do not conform to this world but are transformed by our minds being renewed by the Spirit of God and the word of God. This flows into practical application and to practically serve and make a difference in other people’s lives.

Now from verse three, he directs us on how we should serve. What should our attitude be? What is the foundation from which we serve? He ends Romans 12 with these words: Do not be overcome by evil. And he says this after giving directions on how we should serve one another.

The warning is this: even when trying to do good, the enemy wants to sneak in and corrupt with envy, discontentment, selfishness, etc. He wants to break down relationships, especially in the household of God. He wants to take that which is beautiful and reduce it to the level of the flesh which is selfish and self-centered.

This attitude has the potential to not only affect relationships inside the church, but also negatively impact those outside the church and our testimony.

This is why Paul gives very definite, practical direction and principles. He once again starts with our identity and tells us to be of sober mind concerning how we think about ourselves.

Then he speaks about the gifts that we received from God and how they should be applied, and then lastly, bringing us back to the purpose of it all: reflecting and living out the love of God.

Paul paints a picture of what the new normal should be. Why? Because it shows the character and heart of God. We are His children, so we model our lives after Him, mirroring His glory.

A note of warning: This should not become another letter of the law becoming superficial rote. It flows from the heart transformed by God.

If we understand and apply this in our lives, it will keep us from being overcome by evil, so that we will overcome evil with good.

I. Think with Sound Judgment

  • Another word for “sound” is sober judgment. Think soberly of yourself. To better understand this, we should look at what the opposite of ‘sound’ is. Some people have a distorted view of themselves. They live in a dream world, inflating themselves.

Illus – the best illustration of this is the show, American Idol, especially when you look at the wooden Mic auditions…

  • Others swing to the opposite side. They break themselves down and don’t think they have any abilities are good qualities.
  • The point is that a lot of our thinking is off-base, and we need to think with sound judgment.

 A. How you ought to think of yourself

  • We should not think more highly of ourselves than God does, and frankly, we should not think more lowly of ourselves than God does either.
  • I think perhaps Paul started with the “more highly than we should” because that’s what he also struggled with.

2 Corinthians 12:7, Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me – to keep me from exalting myself!

  • If we think more highly of ourselves, pride keeps us from being transformed.
  • If we think highly of ourselves, then we don’t see the need to be transformed; to be renewed in our thinking. In other words, there’s no teachability.
  • If we think lowly of ourselves, this is not of faith either. Thinking lowly of oneself can be conditioning from past experiences, or pride that has been wounded.
  • The problem is that many people connect function and ability to worth. They feel worthy if they do good or better than others, or unworthy if they fail or don’t do as well.

Illus – I think the worldly structure has trained people into this mindset. Take most workplaces as an example. If you do well, you get a promotion which results in more income that has more worth. People look up to you. So, people start to attach their worth to their performance. If I am demoted, I am ‘worth less’ in the company and as such they pay me less. People might look down on you. This is seen in most areas of life.

  • Subconsciously, this filters into all areas of our lives and even into our spiritual life and our spiritual serving.
  • We need to detach our worth from our actions. Your worth does not fluctuate. Your worth is determined by the price that was paid, the ransom for your life, and to restore you to God.
  • Your worth is determined by the worth of the blood of the Lamb.

B. Function in your function

  • Each of us has received a measure of faith for our function. Not all are called for the same function. We are many, but one body in Christ. We have gifts that differ by God’s favor given to us, to exercise them accordingly to the building up of the body (church). Not the brick building, but the living organism, the body of Christ.
  • Again, your value is not in the exercising of your gifts. It was a gift. You cannot take the glory for it.
  • God’s ways are so wonderful. He did not make the gifts dependent on your efforts. Because it was a gift, no one can boast, and no one should be envious. Everyone has their own gifts.
  • The only way that envy and evil can find a foothold is if you are envious of someone else’s gift, because you are attaching worth to it, and therefore think you will be more worthy if you were able to do it.
  • Paul warns against this. Do not compare yourself to other people.

Illus – ‘I want to be the eye. Or the toe, or the ear.’ Nobody sees the stomach. But the stomach is very important! Nobody sees the heart, but I would rather do without a tongue than a heart.

  • What God has planned for you is the space where you function your best. Do that. When you function within your gift you will thrive and be effective in the kingdom.
  • Also, don’t feel condemned if you do not do the things other people do. All are not missionaries, all are not guitarists, all are not tech people, all are not teachers, all are not shepherds, and all are not caregivers.
  • The people who do those things love to do it!
  • But also, do not condemn others if they don’t do what your passion is and you love!

 Illus – My wife loves children’s ministry. She loves working with kids. I can do it, but I am really not effective in it, and I am taking up the space of someone else who is called to it.

Some people love to hand out tracts. Do not feel condemned if you don’t. You might function much better and flourish in another area.

  •  It is not wrong to be exposed to different ministries and functions. It is good to try it and be exposed to different things. How will you know if you never try it?

Illus – That is why, for example, we have many ways to serve in the church. We don’t force you into it. We ask you to pray over it and ask God. We really don’t want people who are greeters but don’t want to be there, or food servers that look like they have been drinking vinegar. Or children’s ministry volunteers who can’t stand children!

  • That does not mean that a specific gift cannot also flow through you for a season. I can pick up a napkin on the floor with my big toe if my hands are busy carrying something else.
  • The attitude behind it is important. I am not above that, or that function is “below me”.

 II. Let Love Be…

  •  Paul then goes to the heart of the matter. What is the foundation that all this is built on? Why do we do all the things we are doing? It should be built on the foundation of love. Love for God, and love for one another.
  • But it doesn’t just leave this as an abstract concept. He gives practical pointers and values that should be the substance of our love.

 A. Let love be sincere

  • Let love be without hypocrisy. Another word for hypocrisy is being an actor. Acting something that you are not. Our love should not be an act.
  • Our love is a love that flows from the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Love from and for God will naturally flow out to love for others.

1 John 4:20-21, If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

  •  Once again, this love is shown practically. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good. Want good for those around you.
  • We should have devotion to one another in brotherly love. What does devotion mean? It is to be loyal to, enthusiastic about the other person, what is good for them and would build them up.
  • It is giving preference to one another in honor. It is placing another’s interest in front of yours. It is giving preference to others.

Illus – A good illustration is when you go through a door, and let someone else pass before you, or letting someone else dish up first. It is horrible when someone pushes others out of the way to get in line first or run through a door first.

  • And be happy for others when they are experiencing blessings.
  • This is just to illustrate the type of heart we should have. Putting someone else first. Being the least, not focusing on the self, but focusing on others. This is one of the greatest kingdom principles.
  • This is honorable. By giving honor to others, you act honorably, and it brings you honor and honor to God.

B. …diligent, with a fervent Spirit

  • Diligence is putting in constant effort to accomplish something and being persistent in doing it. In other words, don’t give up in serving the Lord and serving others.
  • And we should do this with a fervent Spirit. Now here is where the flesh sometimes struggles. Sometimes the flesh doesn’t feel like doing these things. Sometimes the flesh gets tired, and then the flesh influences the soul to become begrudging and dissatisfied.
  • The flesh starts to ask, I am always serving, when will someone serve me? I am always giving. When will someone give it to me?
  • When the soul grows weary, the flesh wants to throw a pity party and make it all about the self.
  • This is where we become a living sacrifice. Where we choose not to listen to the selfish nature of the flesh, but choose to be a living sacrifice, surrendering to God and His Spirit to be used for his glory.

C. Rejoice, Persevere, pray, be at peace

  • Paul then continues with a list of practical examples of what we should do in love and a fervent Spirit. We can spend weeks just studying this passage, so we are going to quickly touch on each and discuss briefly.
  • Rejoice in hope. persevere in tribulation. We don’t live by what we see. As Christians, we rejoice in that which we do not see. This is where our true faith shines brightly.
  • When others give up, we press on, because we know that our hope is not grounded in this world, but our hope is in Christ who has already overcome the world.
  • Be devoted in prayer. Prayer is time speaking to God. Prayer is time listening to God. Praying for others as God lays them on your heart.
  • Stepping away from this world that demands attention and denying it that attention. Choosing to focus on God, spending time at the wellspring of life.
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints, and be hospitable. Being willing to let go of your hard-earned cash to contribute to the needs of others and blessing others is one of the most freeing things in your Christian walk.
  • It sends a practical subconscious message to the self: I am not controlled by money. Money is not my God. God is my God and my source.
  • It has a twofold function. It blesses the ones that you are blessing, and it blesses you because you are set free from many fleshly traits. It combats envy, selfishness, a spirit of poverty, and many other things that want to take hold of your soul.
  • And everyone can give. It is about the heart. No matter how little you have. It can change you from having a victim mentality to having the mentality of more than a conqueror.

Illus – in Mark 12 Jesus addresses this very principle while observing the poor widow who gave two small copper coins.

  • Bless those who persecute you, and where possible be at peace with everyone.
  • Now I’m glad he says, where possible be at peace with everyone, because some people are just impossible.
  • But the exhortation to us is this: if there is no peace, let it not be your fault. Do everything in your power to be at peace with everyone. There is a great blessing in this.

Matthew 5:19, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

  • I want people to look at me and say, there goes a son of God. He carries the character of God. That is what all of us should be focused on: to be transformed into the image of God, carrying His spirit, way of thinking, and heart.
  • Never take your own revenge. God will repay. Feed your enemy, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.
  • What does this mean? He will become ashamed when you repay his evil for good. It might not be in that moment. You might not see it. But your actions will impact that person. God’s Spirit is the one that will use that to convict Him.
  • We live on a different level. We look from an eternal perspective. In the end, God’s heart is that all will be saved, even your enemies.
  • Each of these are foundational faith principles that grow our character while serving others.
  • When we look at this list of things in Romans 12, it can be quite daunting. When you start to measure yourself against these principles, many fail. How is it possible to live this way?

Illus – There once was a rich young man who asked what he should do to obtain eternal life… Jesus set the bar impossibly high. His disciples, exasperated, asked, ‘Then who can be saved? It seems impossible Jesus. The ask is too great. No one can live up to that!’

Matthew 19:26, And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

  • That is the key. We cannot from our own power sustain this type of life. This is why Paul said in verse one, therefore… It is only by being grafted into the vine, connected and energized by the Spirit of God that we can do this.

Isaiah 40:30-31, Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

  • We can see the areas we are lacking, but instead of doubling down our efforts, and trying harder, we can repent, come in agreement with God that we are lacking in whatever area it is, and surrender to His Spirit, asking Him to come and work it in us.

Illus – He promises to do that. His streams of living water will sustain us. As you pray for your enemies, one day you will look at them and suddenly realize I have compassion for them now. As you serve others and pray for others, you will start to see them from a different perspective as God pours out His agape love in your heart.

  • When we surrender to live not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit.
  • Ultimately, this is how we are not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Living with a different spirit to this world.

Romans 12:3-21    NASB 1995

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


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